As we’ve mentioned a few times, the gender gap here is HUGE. One of the most important aspects of this is the expectation gap. In the west we see it in the expectations of working women to “do it all”. Articles about them always mention their family life and often cooking. Men are praised for their work and their home life is barely, if at all, mentioned. Women are expected to do more. On the islands, the difference is even greater. I’ve often joked that this country runs on adolescent girls’ labor. Because it does. They are the hardest working people I’ve ever seen.
An 8 year old girl is expected to help get her younger siblings up and fed. She walks with them to school before going to her own classes. In the evening, she walks them home and then helps prepare dinner, look after the other kids, and get them to bed after which she can finally do her own homework. On the weekends, she helps out in the garden, weaves, and continues to look after her other siblings. On average, the girl will still out perform the boy in school.
An 8 year old boy is supposed to run amok. He may be asked to do one-off tasks around the house or collect some firewood. At school, it is expected that he will be somewhat rowdy and bother the girls. In the evenings, he may be expected to prepare kava for some of the men. On the weekends, he will be expected to help out some in the garden.
Those of us in the feminist world see these discrepancies and chafe at their unfairness. “How can so much be expected of the women?” we ask.
I think that’s the completely wrong way to ask the question. Instead we need to ask, “How can so little be expected of the boys?” Women are amazing and capable of doing so much. Why? Because they are told from an early age that they are supposed to. We should be telling our boys the same thing. We should be telling them that their worth is measured not only by their career, but by their family too.
We do not get better by lowering our standards so that we can step over the bar. We get better by building ourselves up so that we can get over a reasonably high bar. Yes, there is such a thing as unreasonably high expectations and those are defeating, but it’s not our current problem.
Humans are capable of AMAZING things. There is so much cool stuff in the world because we’ve made it. We can do more cool stuff if we expect ourselves to be awesome. So lets even up expectations by expecting the best of everyone!